The Queen at RWHS – In 2020 Windsor Goes Virtual

This week should have seen the seventy seventh annual Royal Windsor Horse Show take place in the Great Park at Windsor with the magnificent Windsor Castle providing the unique back drop. It is a show which is synonymous with Royalty as the Queen and all her family have been regular visitors every year since the first show was founded in 1943, when Her Father King George VI attended.

When the show was founded by Count Robert Orssish and Mr Geoffrey Cross, it was for raising funds for the Second World War “Wings for Victory” effort. It was called the Windsor Horse and Dog show. With the attendance of the King and Queen together with the then Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret and other members of the Royal Family, it was a staggering success.

King George at Windsor with Queen Elizabeth and Twp Princesses

As a result, the Borough of Windsor were able to donate £391,000 to the charity which was a huge sum in those days and provided funds to buy 78 typhoon fighter aircraft. In 1944, the show simply became the Windsor Horse Show. The dog bit was ditched because in the first year, a dog stole a chicken, supposedly lunch for the Royal party. Such was the shame and consternation about this unfortunate episode, dogs have never been allowed back into the showground.

Since then, the Queen has never missed the show and it is said that it is one of her most joyous weeks of the year. The show has run every year bar three, 2001 was the first full cancellation due to the foot and mouth outbreak, the second was a partial cancellation in 2016 due to flooding and the final cancellation is this year. “From small acorns, do large oak trees grow” is very apt for this show. From its early days, the show has become the biggest horse show in the U.K and over the years has become one of the most important and prestigious.

Prince Phillip at Windsor – a very keen carriage driver

Backed by the FEI, it is the only show to provide FEI classes for showjumping, dressage, carriage driving and endurance in the UK. It started as a one day show, but after a couple of years, it was extended to three days before in 1977, marking the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, it became a five day show. In its first year, the Queen was a winner, taking the Pony and Dogcart class. Since then She has had dozens of winners in the show ring. The Duke of Edinburgh was well known for competing every year in the Carriage Driving International, and with some success. Prince Phillip was instrumental in the whole sport of carriage driving. When he retired from polo at 50 years old, he decided to give carriage driving a go and chaired a committee with the FEI to have the sport included as an FEI international competition. Although he trashed several carriages at Windsor and elsewhere, he did represent Great Britain on many occasions at international level.  He retired from competition in 2003, but since then, despite his age, has been seen taking out the odd four in hand!

Never to miss a moment.

The show’s growth over the years has been meteoric. It now hosts the international FEI competitions as well as a big number of National and showing classes together with equestrian displays and of course the famous evening pageants. The Queen chose The Windsor Horse Show to celebrate Her 90th Birthday in 2016, with a special pageant of horses from around the whole world – there were over 500 horses which took part!

On March 16th 2020, the Royal Windsor Horse Show felt compelled to announce that the show would not go ahead in 2020 due to the UK government policies of social distancing and that there would be no available ambulance/health cover. In a statement, the organisers were keen to say that they put the health and the wellbeing of all the participants of the show at the top of the list of priorities and that they were planning an even bigger extravaganza in 2021 when the show will take place between May 12 to 16th with the famous pageant taking place on the evenings of May 13th to 15th. This year, there is a virtual show which can be found on https://virtual.rwhs.co.uk/

Main picture courtesy Goldeneye Photography and all others courtesy Daily Mail and David Hartley from 1982.

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